Trayvon Martin murder jury was prevented from considering the real issue at play – racial profiling

"It is hard not to recall a similar strategy adopted by the Ku Klux Klan to try to instigate a response among those it sought to oppress," says NAACP bureau president

Share
Related Topics

Hours, days, perhaps even years before he met his death, Trayvon Martin was a marked man. Had the judge in the trial of George Zimmerman permitted discussion of racial profiling, the prosecution could have argued that, of all the people who walked through his gated housing community, Zimmerman was looking for certain type of person. And on the night of 26 February he spotted a man that fitted the bill. A man who simply didn’t belong there.

The case would have hinged on the conversation Zimmerman had with the police dispatcher. “They always get away,” he said. He, like so many before him, had already profiled who “they” were. “They” are not just Trayvon Martin. Trayvon Martin is part of “they”. “They” are those that arouse suspicion. “They” are those that are deemed to struggle in a society that still uses appearances to dictate whether we could be criminal or not.

This verdict shows racial profiling is still alive. Martin was young. He was black. He was wearing hip-hop attire. He fitted a profile. So much so that George Zimmerman did not just call the police, but took it upon himself to confront him with a gun on the grounds of criminal suspicion.

There is an even more alarming repetition of history.

Even though Trayvon Martin was confronted and shot to death he had no recourse or justice or protection because his confronter was armed – something that asks deep questions about Florida’s “stand your ground” laws. It is hard not to recall a similar strategy adopted by the Ku Klux Klan to try to instigate a response among those it sought to oppress.

We must move to learn from this case and make changes happen. The Justice Department must conduct an investigation into the civil rights violations committed against Trayvon Martin. We’re going to have to repeal the “stand your ground” law other dangerous “self defence” policies. We’re going to have to return to the painfully divisive issue of gun laws, as firearms remain too easily obtainable and able to fall into the wrong hands. We need to pass anti-racial-profiling policies.

But most of all we need to look deep within ourselves – to get past our own prejudices of those who we perceive as different because of how they dress, how they walk or the colour of their skin. 

Hilary Shelton is the president of the Washington bureau of the National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Langley James : Web Developer; PHP, MySQL, Java; Blackfriars; £25k

£25000 per annum + training: Langley James : Web Developer; PHP, MySQL, Java; ...

h2 Recruit Ltd: Sales Manager - Holiday Homes - £100,000 OTE

£40000 - £60000 per annum + £100,000 OTE: h2 Recruit Ltd: Birmingham, Derby, L...

h2 Recruit Ltd: New Business Sales Manager - Talent Management - £60,000 OTE

£35000 - £60000 per annum + benefits: h2 Recruit Ltd: A true market leader in ...

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Consultant - OTE £35,000

£18000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Business Development Consulta...

Day In a Page

Read Next
The racy marketing to entice consumers to buy Fairlife, which launches in the US next month  

The Fairlife 'Coke Milk' adverts: Do we really need pin-up girls to sell us drinks?

Ylva Johannesson
Australian cricketer Phil Hughes has died aged 25  

Phillip Hughes: A sensational man, both on and off the pitch

Angus Fraser
Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

Sarkozy returns

The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game
There's a Good Girl exhibition: How female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising

In pictures: There's a Good Girl exhibition

The new exhibition reveals how female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising
UK firm Biscuiteers is giving cookies a makeover - from advent calendars to doll's houses

UK firm Biscuiteers is giving cookies a makeover

It worked with cupcakes, doughnuts and macarons so no wonder someone decided to revamp the humble biscuit
Can SkySaga capture the Minecraft magic?

Can SkySaga capture the Minecraft magic?

It's no surprise that the building game born in Sweden in 2009 and now played by millions, has imitators keen to construct their own mega money-spinner
The King's School is way ahead of the pack when it comes to using the latest classroom technology

Staying connected: The King's School

The school in Cambridgeshire is ahead of the pack when it comes to using the latest classroom technology. Richard Garner discovers how teachers and pupils stay connected
Christmas 2014: 23 best women's perfumes

Festively fragrant: the best women's perfumes

Give a loved one a luxe fragrance this year or treat yourself to a sensual pick-me-up
Arsenal vs Borussia Dortmund: Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain celebrates century with trademark display of speed and intuition

Arsenal vs Borussia Dortmund

The Ox celebrates century with trademark display of speed and intuition
Billy Joe Saunders vs Chris Eubank Jnr: When two worlds collide

When two worlds collide

Traveller Billy Joe Saunders did not have a pampered public-school upbringing - unlike Saturday’s opponent Chris Eubank Jnr
Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Drifting and forgotten - turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Our partner charities help veterans on the brink – and get them back on their feet
Putin’s far-right ambition: Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU

Putin’s far-right ambition

Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU
Tove Jansson's Moominland: What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?

Escape to Moominland

What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?